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Pitch in

Arroyo Grande

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How do you wake up in the morning? Is it the sound of your alarm clock, the smell of coffee brewing in your automatic coffee pot or the nudge of a loved one?

Do you snuggle away those last precious moments of the morning under a warm down comforter and then submit to the morning and slip out of bed into a nice pair of fuzzy slippers and start your day? Does the thought ever cross your mind that some people out there are beginning their day in another way?

In our own town many people are waking up to the sound of the Amtrak thundering by the bushes they found refuge in for the night. They wake up stiff and cold, smelling garbage that has been dumped near by. The morning sun has exposed the safe place they had found the night before. Try as they might to cover their heads with a jacket to block the sun or cover themselves from passers-by they are exposed both to nature and the world. There’s no coffee brewing in the kitchen, no toasty blanket; just a gnawing in their stomachs and an aching in their bones from a night spent on hard ground reminding them that their last meal was much too long ago.

They didn’t want to spend the night this way but the local shelter was full. As they stretch their stiff body and try to shake off a night of bad sleep they quickly check their surroundings. The bag of cans and bottles they collected from dumpsters and trash cans nearby is still at their feet and with a little walking to the recycling center they might get enough for a donut and coffee and a couple of bottles of water. People look past them, thinking “those people” must be drug addicts and have chosen that lifestyle .

Think about how close we are to becoming homeless. It doesn’t take much, only the loss of a job, which leads to an eviction and boom, you’re there. So instead of condemning unfortunate souls think about what would you do.

There are people sleeping in their cars on random streets of San Luis Obispo each night who were homeowners last year. It only takes a fragile combination of high medical bills, the loss of a loved one, and low wages to land you in the same spot. Recently I saw a homeless man waking in the park off South Street, who hoisted himself into a wheel chair. He was missing both legs. How did society leave him behind? In our quaint little town that tourists flock to how did he miss out? Why wasn’t anyone helping him?

My point is, there is a lot of money in this town. There are retired dot.comers from San Jose in their early 50s, there are folks from L.A. who retired here to get away from it all and live by the beach in million-dollar “shacks,” and there are retired physicians who have decided to delve into the wine industry. There is plenty of money here to spare. Why are there still so many people without shelter here? Something has to change. ?Think about how you can make a difference and trade in your latest extravagance to change someone’s life who is down on his or her luck.

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